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Screams heard the night of Hilo murder

Updated: 
March 28, 2014 - 5:30am

The manager of an apartment complex behind where police say a man was murdered Wednesday said he heard screams and loud noises for hours before police discovered the body.

Kelcey Bufil said he arrived home at about 3 p.m. Wednesday and heard a disturbance at the Low Apartments at 140 Ululani St. near downtown Hilo.

“I heard loud screams, loud noise, I figured from my property, so I went outside to look. I didn’t see anything, so I let it go,” he said.

“It continued until about 7, so I got worried. I come out again, I don’t see nothing, so I let it go. I went to sleep; I didn’t think nothing of it.

“Then today (Thursday) the police come to see me. They tell me there was a dead body found, but because this is an area with a lot of churches, seniors, I figured there’s rarely any crime. I let it go. There’s rarely crime in this area.”

Police Capt. Robert Wagner of the Hilo Criminal Investigation Division said officers responded to a reported disturbance at the apartment complex at 7:32 p.m.

“The call came from a neighbor,” he said. “The disturbance was more like a party kind of action at that location. So upon their arrival at that particular apartment complex, the officers discovered the lifeless body of a male … within that apartment.”

A 63-year-old Hilo man and a 53-year-old Pahoa woman were arrested at the scene on suspicion of second-degree murder, but neither had been charged as of Thursday afternoon.

Wagner said police believe the male suspect lives in the ground-floor apartment where the body was discovered. Police identified the victim through fingerprints but were withholding his identity pending notification of next of kin, he said.

Necita Yaeger, who lives in the Low Apartments, said she didn’t know there was a disturbance until police and an ambulance arrived, but that another woman in the building said she heard a woman crying for hours and called police.

“I asked what was going on and she told me ‘I do not know,’” she said. “I told her … the policeman is still here. I do not know when they went away, but it must have been late. About 12, they’re still here.”

Police didn’t disclose how the 59-year-old victim was killed, but Wagner said detectives have “some indication how it may have occurred.”

“He had some injuries on him that may have been life threatening but until the medical examiner looks at him and determines how he died, we’re not going to speculate on what caused his death,” he said. Wagner added that an autopsy is scheduled for today.

Bufil said there was suspected drug activity in the apartment house “a few months ago,” but the owner, Joyce Low, “kicked those guys out.”

“She’s had trouble throughout the years. … But to me, it seemed like an OK place,” he said. “There wasn’t very much fighting. It was always quiet. It was the first time in a long time I heard any noise from the place.”

Bufil described the suspected homicide as “a surprise to me.”

“A lot of my tenants are surprised. Some of them don’t even want to come out of their house because they’re scared,” he said.

Police ask anyone with information to call the department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311 or contact Detective Clarence Davies at 961-2384 or cdavies@co.hawaii.hi.us. Those who prefer anonymity may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.